My parental units are coming out to California in a few weeks. This will be their third (or fourth?) trip out and we're planning to head to the southern half of the state for a change. We've seen much of the local and northern stuff.

They've been dutifully looking through the AAA Tour Books, making list of things that might be interesting, sending me a list for comments, and so on. But I figure that there may be a good handful of people reading my site who can suggest things that may not have made it into the AAA books (or which they may downplay too much).

So, aside from "Christmas than Death Valley" what would you want to make sure your parents saw in Southern California on their first Winter Vacation out here? A favorite ghost town? The largest ball of twine? A famous stretch of beach? Wally World? Paul Kedrosky's driveway?

Anything is fair game at this point...

Posted by jzawodn at November 30, 2006 07:29 AM

Reader Comments
# Preston said:

If your parents are into antiques they would probably enjoy spending a few hours in San Clemente - it's a cool little town with maybe 1/2 mile stretch of different kinds of stores. At the bottom of the hill is a beautiful beach...

on November 30, 2006 07:47 AM
# David Dorward said:

Have you considered looking at what people consider photo-worthy in the area on Flickr?

I haven't actually tried this yet, but I'm planning to next time I go somewhere where I'll have the chance to do some looking at things.

on November 30, 2006 08:11 AM
# Danny Sullivan said:

Hit my blog, Jeremy, then the OC category. Go to lunch at Ruby's on the Newport Beach pier, have a nice day out at the beach, then go to the Newport Beach boat parade if you're there around Dec. 9 or afterward. Nice boats, nice lights.

on November 30, 2006 08:14 AM
# Matt Cutts said:

Down in L.A. at Universal City, take them to Howl at the Moon, which is a dueling pianos bar. Great fun. Um, here: I don't know why the Bay Area doesn't have bars with pianos that duel.

on November 30, 2006 08:38 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


That must be a chain. There's one in Cleveland too. :-)

But I've never been there, so why not?


on November 30, 2006 08:50 AM
# Robert Konigsberg said:

These are my can't miss recommendations for the Los Angeles area.

Something that recently opened is the Getty Villa, which was the original home of the Getty museum, and recently underwent a $150M renovation. The views are beautiful, as is the property. It's free, but you have to get tickets in advance, since there is very limited parking. (If you've never been to the Getty Museum, you could definitely go there, too, but I think the Villa is a greater place to be.)

For Sunday brunch, The Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon. Driving in the canyon itself is gorgeous, the food here is great. I'm also a little biased as I got married there.

Another restaurant that sounds too strange to be good, but is so much fun: Thai Palms in Hollywood. It's stuck right in the middle of Thai Town on Hollywood Boulevard. The food is authentic, but there's plenty of fallback foods. The most important part? After 7PM on most nights, Thai Elvis sings. He's unbelievably fabulous: and

Call and confirm when he's playing.

Finally, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles just reopened after a 5-year, 150M renovation. I can't tell if my facts are straight or I just think everything costs $150M. I some ways, the exhibits are familiar, but if you're into this sort of thing, it could be fun. I'd pick the Villa over this. So this recommendation, I guess, could be a miss.

on November 30, 2006 09:35 AM
# Robert Konigsberg said:

Ah, one thing I forgot -- Thai Palms recently moved, so just checking any ol' website may not give you their correct location. Try

on November 30, 2006 09:42 AM
# Dolph said:

La Brea tar pits.

on November 30, 2006 09:43 AM
# Charles said:

When I used to live in LA, I would always take visitors to Griffith Park Observatory. I particularly love their Tesla Coil demonstration. I heard the Observatory just reopened after years of restoration.

On the other hand, when I lived in LA, I was really poor and I liked taking people to the Observatory because it was cheap. But it's much preferable to all the other miserable tourist traps in Hollywood.

The new Getty Museum in Santa Monica is probably worth a trip (depending on your parent's interests). I haven't been there yet but it's #1 on my list for my next trip to LA.

on November 30, 2006 09:46 AM
# Joseph Hunkins said:

If they've not been there, and they are like my folks, don't overlook the many world class "main attractions" down there which become good stories for them and notches on their travel belt. Hotel Del Coronado, Mission San Juan de Capistrano, and yes maybe even LegoLand and DisneyLand though I can't quite picture you sitting on "Pirates of the Caribbean" with a big grin on your face for some reason. CA State Historical State Park in Old Town San Diego with some good restaurants nearby:

on November 30, 2006 09:57 AM
# Ken Chan said:

Presidential Libraries?

Ronald Reagan

Richard Nixon

Huntington Library has books, art, and gardens:

on November 30, 2006 10:04 AM
# Jianing said:

OK, a bit of a shameless plug :). But you can take a look at Yahoo! Trip Planner

on November 30, 2006 10:22 AM
# Sarvesh said:

I would goto the getty museum for some nice exhibits and art (?)

on November 30, 2006 12:36 PM
# jim said:

the los angeles conservancy has a number of great walking tours on saturday mornings, mostly in downtown los angeles.

griffith observatory is also good, but you'll need to make reservations for a shuttle bus. (word is that the ones from hollywood & highland are easier to book, and has the benefit of being from another touristy area that is right above a subway stop.)

the museum of jurassic technology is a frequent recommendation, but i haven't actually been there myself.

on November 30, 2006 12:41 PM
# Thomas said:

I always enjoy San Diego. Seaport Village, the Old Town area, the hotel out on the island(forget the name), and if you like good beer I have heard alot of good things about Stone Breweries new location.

on November 30, 2006 01:36 PM
# erin said:

First, if they do go to San Clemente, there's a great breakfast/lunch place. Waffle Lady. Pico exit, near Staples. They have a dozen different waffle choices and toppings and other stuff.

If they hit San Diego, I have to argue about Seaport Village and Old Town. Both are terribly touristy and don't offer too much. It think Old Town survives on the cruise ship business...Seaport is a little better than Old Town. If they're the active types, try hikinng Cowles Mountain. It's pretty easy and offers a nice view. Other active stuff is on our site and San Diego content is free. If they like to shop, Cedros Design District is fun for browsing. It's in Solana Beach.

on November 30, 2006 02:54 PM
# Dave said:

The drive out (and up) to Palomar through the orange groves is long but worth it. Cabrillo Monument on Coronado in San Diego has the best view in Socal. Queen Mary in Long Beach. San Diego Wild Animal Park - ride around in the back of a pickup truck being pestered by giraffes and ostriches. Tehachapi loop is a must for railroad buffs.

on November 30, 2006 03:01 PM
# JimT said:

San Diego!

Have lunch at George's at the Cove in La Jolla. Go to Balboa Park and have a meal at Prado. There are a ton of museums & the world famous San Diego Zoo. If you're still wanting critters head up the Wild Animal Park. Be sure to visit the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado. The Gaslamp Quarter is historic and fun as well.

I second the Cedros Design District idea. Lots of intersting shopping. If you go to Seaport Village go to the Midway aircraft carrier museum then do a harbor tour. If you time it right you could check out the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights (I'd recommend checking out Island Prime).

on November 30, 2006 03:06 PM
# Ask Bjørn Hansen said:

The address on the Palms Thai website is correct (unless they moved in the last couple of weeks :-) ) For good seafood in the same area the Hungry Cat is nice(I've only been once). Your parents might like the Water Grill downtown (well, you would too if you like seafood).

The Griffith Observatory renovation is supposed to be very good. I haven't been yet, but since I can see it from my window where I work at home it's nice with the lights at night now. :-)

- ask

on November 30, 2006 03:17 PM
# Bill said:

Not sure what your parents like, but here are some options I've run through when I've had family visiting:

Pasadena Area:
* Huntington Gardens -- The grounds are great, but be sure to check out the library too for the collection of rare books
* Rose Bowl -- fun to walk around
* Drive to top of Mt. Wilson (highest point in San Gabriel Valley) -- great views
* Old Town Pasadena -- nice restaurants, shops, etc. My favorite bar is Lucky Baldwins. Low key, not very loud, amazing selection of beer.

* Santa Barbara -- Great wine country. If you like camping, but want to go yuppie style (with beds & heaters in your tent or cabin) check out El Capitan Canyon
* Six Flags -- if they like costers at all, worth checking out, especially since they'll be demolishing it for condos soon
* Venice boardwalk -- a must-see on Sat or Sun
* Santa Monica Pier
* Santa Monica's 3rd Street -- shops, restaurants, good people watching
* Griffith Observatory -- just reopened. Supposed to beautiful. Requires call ahead reservations.
* The Getty -- The museum's actual collection sucks, but it's a beautiful building with a great view
* Ronald Reagan Library -- You especially might like it, as the Boeing 707 used as Reagan's Air Force one should be open now.
* Hollywood Walk of Fame
* The Sunset Strip -- fun to check out, but avoid night-time clubbing time. E.g., the Standard on Sunset is easy to get in & grab a drink at say, 5pm. The Saddleranch is good for lunch on the weekends too.
* Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills -- crazy expensive shops, but fun to window shop
* La Brea Tar Pits
* Don't know if you're serious or not, but Death Valley is actually pretty cool and the winter is a great time to visit. Be sure to see the Ubehebe Crater & "The Racetrack"
* San Diego -- check out the Gas Light district. Sea World is cool, but watch out for the whales & sting rays.
* Tijuana -- Don't drive across the border though.
Take the trolley from SD.
* Catalina Island -- just off the coast of LA.
* Driving along the 1 -- Runs along the Ocean. Beautiful.
* Fogo de Chao -- not really an LA thing, but I don't think they have one in SF & my favorite restaurant. Bring a big appetite for meat. ;-)

on November 30, 2006 03:21 PM
# Kevin Burton said:

big sur!

on November 30, 2006 04:26 PM
# Joseph Hunkins said:


Would you agree that the advice you have from these few dozen posts from locals and travelers who were motivated to participate and help is actually much *better* than what you'd get from a fairly detailed search of several travel sites? How can this effect be bottled and .commed across many regions?

on November 30, 2006 05:32 PM
# Ruth said:

Take them to Placita Olvera in Downtown LA, maybe take them for some Chinese food in China Town, or Little Tokyo. How about some shopping in Pasadena, or...take them to the beach. So much to do in LA, the only thing you'll need is TIME & energy. Have fun!

on November 30, 2006 11:12 PM
# JohnR said:

Skip the LA scene, go straight to San Diego. Many good suggestions already posted. Also, head out to Hwy 1/Pacific Coast Highway at Carlsbad/Legoland and drive south. Lots of little beach towns you'll miss from I-5. Great shops, eats, etc.

If you have extra time and want to vist some OC spots, check out Laguna Beach. Great downtown for "artsy" window browsing.

on November 30, 2006 11:20 PM
# Bazily said:

- The Getty
- Aquarium of the Pacific
- Newport Beach Boat Parade (
- Balboa Island
- John Wayne Airport (for airplane enthusiasts)
- Google's new office on Jamboree Rd.
- Downtown Disney
- Laguna Beach/Las Brisas
- Montage/St Regis/Ritz-Carlton Resorts
- Catalina
- Roy's San Diego
- Sea World
- Hotel Del Coronado

That should be a balance of trendy, cultural, odd, and local spots. With a better profile you may get better recommendations.

on December 1, 2006 12:00 AM
# Sumit Chachra said:

Getty Center in LA is a must if they like art, culture etc.

on December 1, 2006 01:06 AM
# Jeffrey Friedl said:

The drive down PCH is really nice, albite slower than taking 5 or 101.

For something really different, you can swing by my brother's house in Tustin to see his genuine "UNIX WIZ" licence plate. A thrill for the whole family!

on December 1, 2006 04:06 AM
# Todd said:

The Griffith Park Observatory just reopenend. IT's cool. And see if you can get into the Getty Villa down on PCH. If you can't do the Getty Villa do the Getty.

on December 1, 2006 09:59 AM
# Dolph said:

Well I'm sure your parents are really into aviation, so take them to the museum at March Air Force base east of LA.

Then continue on towards Palm Springs and take the tram up to Mt. San Jacinto.

If you want to do San Diego, have lunch at George's upstairs in La Jolla, walk over to see the seals at the "Children's Pool Beach", then drive up to the Mt. Soledad cross for one of the best views in San Diego, then drive up to Torrey Pines gliderport.

I wouldn't bother with the Del Coronodo, it looks nice from a distance but up close it's just a run down hotel.

on December 1, 2006 02:28 PM
# Paul Hoffman said:

Yes, Disneyland, as long as they can tolerate crowds (it is very crowded around xmas). If your parents say "we love to watch people" and don't care about blowing about $100 each for admission and food, they might have a great time. Or they might get cranky and tired like a lot of the locals.

on December 1, 2006 02:49 PM
# Diane said:

Okay, I see a few Griffith Obs. which was my suggestion as well. You'll need reservations for that if that hasn't been mentioned yet.

Nice place for dinner, nice atmosphere, if it isn't too chilly is Gladstones in Malibu. If you like seafood that is.

on December 1, 2006 06:47 PM
# Thruxton Jackaroo said:

My comrade was telling me earlier this evening about his adventures in southern California with his parents (who were visiting from Indiana) last weekend.

The Reagan Presidential Library apparently made quite an impression on all of them, enough for him to go over it twice. I wasn't able to find out what books they checked out however.

When I worked down there, I would take my visitors around the corner to Rodeo Drive or Catalina Island, depending on how much time they had.

on December 2, 2006 12:06 AM
# Robert Konigsberg said:

+1 for Gladstones in Malibu and Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. However, it's getting a little cold here by the ocean, I don't know how much outdoor seating you'll get from Hotel Del Coronado.

Hotel Del Coronado has an afternoon tea service that is fantastic and a great way to pamper yourself. It's a beautiful building; that's a nice way to spend some time.

on December 3, 2006 04:26 PM
# Suzy said:

Although Disneyland is lots of fun, there's an adult thing to do I think they'd enjoy if they are interested in movies much. The Warner Brothers Studio tour! I have been on it twice, seen West Wing, E.R. and numerous other sets, heard interesting stories, nice small gift shop without tons of lights and glitz, and no children under 16 were allowed last time we went. It's a bit pricey, but what isn't these days, and the tour groups are small-perhaps 12-16 people. We were allowed all the photographs we wanted to take except on sets (for example E.R. but it was lots of fun to walk around where I've seen so many episodes filmed) and in the costume museum portion. I hope you have a wonderful with your parents. The best Disney guide I know are Birnbaum's (just google birnbaum and disneyland) and Fodor's Los Angeles. Maybe your Dad wants to smooch your Mom on Mulholland Drive? The view is spectacular. Arnold's (gov Schwarzenegger sp?) restaurant in Santa Monica is very good (Schatzie on Main I think is the name) and the Kodak Theatre is interesting. We look for more off the beaten track stuff to do and I like going to the cemeteries and seeing movie stars graves. The most beautiful cemetery I have seen is Westwood Memorial Park which is difficult to find but Marilyn Monroe and other "stars" graves were actually moving to visit. Bel Air is lovely and as long as you keep moving you can drive around to your hearts content. Avoid the maps and stick to the books! There's lots of grand places to eat and Hamburger Hamlet is fun. If you can get a copy of "The Movie Lover's Guide to Hollywood" it has the BEST places to see including old timey H'wood stuff like Joan Crawford's house and the Beverly Hillbillies house which is private and you have to peek fast between the gates. Pickfair-Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford's house is beautiful but may have been torn down. The Hollywood Walk of Fame (stars on the sidewalk) is kinda fun and Larry Edwards bookstore is terrific. I'm a film student so I know I suggested lots of movie stuff but it's not all movie out there. Malibu Creek State Park is a nice break from movie studio and celebrity stuff. Keep your eyes open EVERYWHERE if you want to spot celebs as Arte Johnson waved to me on the Freeway, Joan Van Ark drove past us, and Maclean Stevenson was standing right next to me and I didn't realize it until someone said "the wife and I enjoyed you on MASH." HAVE FUN!!!

on December 16, 2006 03:10 PM
# Dan the Gamer said:

I'd use google search instead of AAA Tour Books.

on January 17, 2007 02:16 PM
# Penny said:

going to LA for a few days then to Palm Springs for several days March 10-17. Taking my family, husband, and kids and their friends, ages 13,18,19,20,21....7 in all!
any suggestions to keep them happy during the day and at night? any help would be appreciated, we are from Indiana, my daughter loves the OC, and movie stars,
Thank you

on January 21, 2007 06:13 PM
# said:

I take people to Extreme Indoor Karting in Costa Mesa. It is an indoor Go Karting track where you do real racing! I have had a lot of fun there recently! Check it out at

on December 29, 2007 11:00 AM
# Bethannie said:

Knott's Berry Farm is a great alternative to Disneyland.

There is also a REALLY great theme restaurant called Medieveal Times in Buena Park (literally down the street from Knott's).

on January 28, 2009 05:33 PM
# Michelle said:

I love whale watching! It's fun just to be out on the water. Plus it's educational (which parents always love). Furthermore, the boats have a full bar and a cocktail is always nice for sunset on the water. My favorite company is Dana Wharf in Dana Point Harbor

on September 7, 2009 02:41 PM
# Hotels Catalina Island said:

Great Ideas! I just moved here to La from London and my parents are coming out in the fall! I can't wait, they have never been before, so will make sure I show them everything!

Great Tips,

on June 30, 2010 03:56 PM
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